Saturday, May 7

The Arcade Fire

This is from the liner notes to The Arcade Fire's "Funeral" LP.....

Members fled from Texas and Ontario at young ages and joined with local youth, making their home in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Somehow they survived the first terrible winters, and in August 2003 at the dusty Hotel 2 Tango they made some preliminary recordings for a new album. Partially due to the intense heat, two of them married each other. This time in the sun was short lived however, and soon the terrible winter of 2004 was upon them. To keep warm they recorded the remaining nine tracks, at the Hotel and in Win and Régine’s apartment, on 24 track 2 inch tape, ½ inch 16 track, ½ inch 8 track, optimus ctr-108, and G_d-forsaken Computer. When family members kept dying they realized that they should call their record “Funeral”, noting the irony of their first full length recording bearing a name with such closure.

They started out with the first verse of Dylan’s “Hard Rain”, and segued from there into their anthemic and marvellous “Wake Up”. It was great, it was live. I was there. The Arcade Fire is the band of this year, without a doubt. There’s a ridiculous amount of good music coming out of Canada at the moment, and this lot are in a league of their own, and almost on another planet. Friday night, at Birmingham’s Academy, they were absolutely awesome. Mr. Belbin, in one of his more inspired moments, brought an Import of “Funeral” around here just after Christmas, and it’s copy has been played and played and played ever since. In the end, it’s one of those records a copy isn’t enough. I had to get the real deal, the cover, the artwork, the thing itself, because it’s that good. Plus, of course, I’ve raided the infoweb for bootlegs of gigs, and any other bits and bobs that are kicking around. Friday night we had great expectations. Reviews of their shows said they were brilliant live. They are. Absolutely. Brilliant. There are plenty of descriptions of The Arcade Fire’s music to be had. Here and
here, for example. And also here. Personally, I’d compare this show to the first time I saw The Flaming Lips. It combined great swells of emotion and melody with a wonderful performance – it was loud, it was clear to the ear, it rocked, it was intelligent, they were happy, the audience were happy. It was one of those occasions when you’re reminded, if you need reminding, how enriching the sharing of something can be.

Win Butler was in great voice and was happy talking to the crowd between songs. Richard Reed Parry, who seems to play every instrument he can lay his hands on, played, I think, every instrument on stage at one time or another, including beating out rhythms on the ceiling and the speakers while wearing a motorcycle helmet. Régine Chassagne’s performance of “Haiti” was accompanied by what one might call a dance, but that’s not really the right word. But these guys really do perform. They know there’s an audience out there to be entertained, and never mind that most of the songs are about serious things, and have quite a lot of death in them. This is energetic and energising, uplifting stuff.

I don't think anyone wanted the evening to end. But it had to end, and as is usual with Arcade Fire gigs it ended with "In The Backseat", the beautiful haunting song which concludes "Funeral" and on which Régine takes lead vocal. "I like the peace in the backseat, I don't have to drive, I can watch the countryside, and I can fall asleep. My family tree's losing all its leaves...." No, mate. It didn't bring a tear to my eye. I swear to God it didn't. It was just smoky in there, that's all.

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